Los Angeles County transportation officials Thursday introduced a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing sexual harassment on buses and trains, after a survey found more than 1 in 5 passengers has experienced unwanted sexual behavior riding Metro.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority campaign, "It's Off Limits," will include posters on buses and trains that tell passengers to report sexual harassment by calling 1-888-950-SAFE (7233) or 911, or by using the Transit Watch app.
Metro is also training bus and train operators and maintenance staff on how to make reports if a passenger asks for help.
Last year, Metro asked more than 22,000 bus and rail passengers if they had experienced "unwanted sexual behavior including, but not limited to, touching, exposure or inappropriate comments." About 22% of passengers, or 4,850 people, said yes.
Metro officials say they're concerned that only a fraction of such incidents may have been reported in 2014. The Sheriff's Department received 31 reports of indecent exposure and made 12 arrests; 62 reports of inappropriate touching and made 18 arrests; and six reports of inappropriate comments and made two arrests.
The rate of reporting is "woefully low," Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Sheila Kuehl said in a prepared statement. The figures indicate "transit customers do not have faith that such behavior can be addressed."
If a victim files a report that includes the date, time and a description of the suspect, law enforcement have "a better opportunity" to arrest someone, Chief Ronene Anda of the Sheriff's Department Transit Policing Division said in a statement.
Last winter, Metro asked passengers if they experienced unwanted sexual advances that made them feel unsafe, and 18% said yes. That figure isn't comparable with this year's 22% figure because the "feeling unsafe" portion of the question was removed.
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